It's a first for Bartlett High School -- in fact, it's a first for any school in Elgin Area School District U-46: Bartlett's speech and drama team took first place at the Upstate Eight Conference Tournament for competitive public speaking and acting.
Anthony Zoubek, the school's speech and drama coach, attributed Bartlett's win on Saturday to team members' enthusiasm.
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"We currently have over 50 kids on our team," said Zoubek, adding that when he first started as a speech coach at Bartlett in 2007, there were less than 10. "We slowly but surely started to see the program grow. When we've gone to conference, we have consistently been in the top three and more consistently in second place. It's ridiculously competitive."
The Upstate Eight, founded in 1963, comprises 14 high schools -- Bartlett, East Aurora, Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley, Waubonsie Valley, South Elgin, Elgin, Larkin, Streamwood, West Chicago, Batavia, Geneva, St. Charles East, and St. Charles North.
Zoubek said Bartlett has typically been among the top three, usually coming in behind Neuqua Valley in Naperville and Metea Valley in Aurora -- teams that are among the top 10 in the state.
Competitive speaking and acting, an Illinois High School Association-sanctioned sport, consists of 14 categories such as persuasive, after-dinner, political and impromptu speeches, as well as original comedy performances, duet acting scenes and radio broadcasting.
Bartlett High speech students also took home first place honors as Individual Event Tournament Champion in various categories at the conference.
Much like other sports, the speech and drama season starts late October and runs through mid-February. The end of the season culminates with the conference, followed by regionals, sectionals and the IHSA state tournament.
Schools are allowed to compete with two students per category at the conference. That's pared down to one student per category at the regional competition. Bartlett will participate in the Feb. 8 regional at Fremd High School in Palatine. Other U-46 high schools will participate at a regional in DeKalb.
After regionals are the sectional tournaments on Feb. 15, followed by the two-day state tournament Feb. 21 and 22 in Peoria.
Bartlett High School Principal Richard Lebrón said Zoubek has the administration's full support to grow the speech program.
For the past two years, Bartlett High has hosted an all-district speech festival, a tradition Lebrón hopes to continue.
"We are trying to support as much as possible this activity," he said.